Leicester City served up their first win since New Year’s Day for new manager Brendan Rodgers, who watched their 2-1 Premier League victory over Brighton and Hove Albion from the stands.
Rodgers was confirmed as Leicester boss on Tuesday, succeeding Claude Puel and signing a contract until June 2022 after stepping down from his position at Celtic.
Demarai Gray fired the hosts – led by caretaker boss Mike Stowell – in front after 10 minutes at the King Power Stadium, before Jamie Vardy made it 2-0 18 minutes into the second half.
Davy Propper pulled a deserved goal back for Brighton three minutes later, but they could not deny the Foxes their first home win of 2019.
Vardy was denied by a Shane Duffy block in the early stages, but it was Gray who quickly brought himself to Rodgers’ attention.
The winger slotted home a composed finish after being sent through one on one with Mat Ryan by Youri Tielemans, before drawing an excellent diving save from the Australia international with a low shot from the centre of the box four minutes later.
4 – Demarai Gray has scored four goals in the 2018-19 Premier League, his best tally in a single season in the competition and his highest in a league campaign since he netted six in the 2014-15 Championship season with Birmingham. Rising. pic.twitter.com/wpZAZlNM5B
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 26, 2019
Duffy headed over from a corner as Brighton’s first real attack came to nothing, but Kasper Schmeichel then had to be alert to tip over a deflected Pascal Gross strike that was dipping awkwardly under his crossbar.
With Brighton growing into the game, Schmeichel was called upon again in the 36th minute, getting down brilliantly to his right to keep out Anthony Knockaert’s fierce left-footed strike.
Vardy headed wide from a Gray cross early in the second period, before Glenn Murray blazed over when Gross teed up what would have been the veteran striker’s 100th league goal for Brighton with a neat backheel.
Leicester doubled their advantage when Vardy got on the end of a James Maddison throughball to smash home their second, but Propper’s first goal for Brighton – a powerful drive beyond Schmeichel – kept the Seagulls in it.
A deflected cross fell kindly for Murray two minutes from time, but it was not his or Brighton’s night, as an ill-judged half-volley saw Leicester hold on for the win.
What does it mean? Brendan’s watching brief
Leicester’s mid-table position allows Rodgers the luxury of having 11 matches, including today, to run the rule over his new crop of players. If first impressions are everything, then a few in blue shirts did their fortunes no harm against Brighton, but the Northern Irishman would like to have seen his new side put the game to bed early after the opener.
Gray’s good impression
Brighton struggled to cope with the pace of Leicester’s attacking players at times and Gray was chief among their tormentors. Even as the visitors settled, Gray – watched by England boss Gareth Southgate – was still central to much of his side’s positive play.
Fortune doesn’t favour the brave
As Brighton chased an equaliser early in the second half, Gross attempted a bold flick to set up a glorious opportunity for Murray. The striker missed and, to rub salt in the wound, the German’s skilful display left him clutching his hamstring and limping from the field.
Rodgers’ first game in charge will be at former club Watford on Sunday, while Brighton host Huddersfield Town a day earlier.
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